BRAVE campaigner Michelle Fitzpatrick didn't live to see the long-awaited rollout of the cervical cancer vaccine for young girls.
Yet, six months after her death, her proud family revealed their delight that the life-saving vaccine scheme has finally got underway this week.
Speaking to the Herald, Michelle's partner Robbie explained: "It's very pleasing to see that it has worked out the way it has. I'm very glad for a lot of different reasons, for everyone in the country. I heard all along that the scheme had been approved and that they were getting everything set up but it's great to see it has actually happened now."
He added: "It's wonderful. It's so important for girls growing up to have that kind of protection. To know that Michelle was part of it was very satisfying. She'd have been absolutely delighted."
The Health Service Executive began administering the vaccine on Wednesday, in a move that should prevent more than 57,000 schoolgirls from developing cervical cancer as adults. Yet the crucial scheme almost didn't happen, having been postponed last year because of budget problems. At the time, 42-year-old Michelle was fighting her own battle with the disease, having been diagnosed in 2008.
Michelle, a Roscommon-based mother-of-five who originally came from the Liberties area of Dublin, was so incensed at the delay that she took it upon herself to campaign for an urgent U-turn on the issue. The brave mum brought her own illness into the public eye, lobbying the Government in a bid to ensure that her own daughters and granddaughters would never suffer the same fate as her.
Shortly before she passed away last March, Michelle was thrilled to hear that Health Minister Mary Harney had once again given the green light to the vaccine scheme. And yesterday, her family described the long-awaited project as a fitting tribute to the brave woman.
Tragically, Michelle didn't live to see the births of her two grandchildren. Her eldest daughter Rachel gave birth to baby Eve Michelle in May, while her sister Amy welcomed a new addition three weeks later, a girl called Summer.
Rachel remarked: "I'm very proud of Mam. There's a good chance now for her grandkids and the two younger girls in the family. She'll definitely rest easy. It was always a big worry for her that one of us would get cervical cancer.
"My little girl is only four months old now and when she's 12 she'll be going to get the needle and she'll be able to say that her nanny was the reason she's getting it."
And while the family was thrilled to welcome the two new arrivals, Robbie admitted: "It was a bittersweet time. It was difficult because it would have been so nice if Michelle could have been there. She has left a huge gap behind her."